Sunday, January 9, 2011

I’m Not Better Than You

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 1 Peter 3:8

The world’s version of this verse might read something like this: “Finally, y’all, be independent thinkers, be self-absorbed, use others for your own purposes, expect others to feel sorry for you, and look out for number one.” It’s not likely that those words could have appeared in Scripture. It’s also not likely that any of us are naturally skilled at what this verse actually says. We’d be better at achieving the opposite.

Relationships are hard work. And, relationships are necessary. We cannot grow in the faith by ourselves. In fact, left to ourselves, we tend to get comfortable and arrange our lives to suit ourselves. But, before we start thinking that God is requiring us to do the impossible, remember that the Bible is God’s vision for your life. These qualities that build relationship are what God envisions for you to develop. Don’t be discouraged by these words. This is the kind of person that God is making you to be.

Peter gave us the keys to unity and relationship. First, he said to be “like-minded.” Does that mean that we all watch FoxNews and agree on everything they say? Not necessarily. Some of us watch other news channels and never listen to talk radio.

“Like-minded” isn’t group-think. It’s not a mindless assent to what most Christian people think about a subject. Being like-minded is being agreeable. Even if we don’t understand everything about another person, we can be understanding.

Sympathy and compassion are also key to good relationships. These qualities are expressed differently by different groups of people. Women emote much differently than men (do men emote?) Midwesterners are rather matter-of-fact about things. Just give them the facts. Southerners are far more gracious. Their conversations are flavored with a great deal of emotion. Yankees, well, fagetaboutit. Now, that I have offended the majority of my readers (I am from Kansas, by the way), you get the idea.

For some people showing sympathy is being moved to tears. For others, it’s offering a helping hand. For some, it’s listening intently without interrupting or trying to fix things. Sympathy and compassion look different on different people. But, to another person our time, our attention, and a listening ear are big things.

Love one another. These three simple words really sum it all up. In victory and in failure, our job is to love. If for any other reason, we love, because God loved us first (1 John 4:19).

What makes all of these qualities possible in our lives is humility. I am not better than you, but I’m also not worse than you. Humility is not feeling bad about yourself. Humility is thinking less about yourself. If I’m not better than you, then I can’t judge you (1 Corinthians 4:5). If I’m not better than you, then I can identify with messing up, because I’ve messed up too.

Who do you connect with on a regular basis? How do your relationships reflect these qualities from 1 Peter 3:8? Where could you improve? Don’t become discouraged by this. Ask God to fulfill His vision for your life. 

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